Two vastly different pictures of Sweden are being painted by opposing forces in the American media.
The leaders of the Sweden Democrats (the Swedish version of France’s National Front) wrote a rather dire op-ed in The Wall Street Journal proclaiming President Donald Trump is absolutely right when it comes to his claims of immigrant chaos in the country.
Mr. Trump did not exaggerate Sweden’s current problems. If anything, he understated them. Sweden took in about 275,000 asylum-seekers from 2014-16—more per capita than any other European country. Eighty percent of those who came in 2015 lacked passports and identification, but a majority come from Muslim nations. Islam has become Sweden’s second-largest religion. In Malmö, our third-largest city, Mohamed is the most common name for baby boys.
The effects are palpable, starting with national security. An estimated 300 Swedish citizens with immigrant backgrounds have traveled to the Middle East to fight for Islamic State. Many are now returning to Sweden and are being welcomed back with open arms by our socialist government. In December 2010 we had our first suicide attack on Swedish soil, when an Islamic terrorist tried to blow up hundreds of civilians in central Stockholm while they were shopping for Christmas presents. Thankfully the bomber killed only himself.
Riots and social unrest have become a part of everyday life. Police officers, firefighters and ambulance personnel are regularly attacked. Serious riots in 2013, involving many suburbs with large immigrant populations, lasted for almost a week. Gang violence is booming. Despite very strict firearm laws, gun violence is five times as common in Sweden, in total, as in the capital cities of our three Nordic neighbors combined.
Jimmie Akesson and Mattias Karlsson go on to claim women are in serious danger in the country.
The number of sex crimes nearly doubled from 2014-15, according to surveys by the Swedish government body for crime statistics. One-third of Swedish women report that they no longer feel secure in their own neighborhoods, and 12% say they don’t feel safe going out alone after dark. A 1996 report from the same government body found that immigrant men were far likelier to commit rape than Swedish men. Last year our party asked the minister of justice to conduct a new report on crime and immigration, and he replied: “In light of previous studies, I do not see that a further report on recorded crime and individuals’ origins would add knowledge with the potential to improve the Swedish society.”
Akesson and Karlsson certainly make it sound like Sweden is ready to become the next Syria. But author and film documentary director Johan Norborg paints a rather different picture of the current Swedish climate. He opines at Reason that crime really isn’t as bad as the Swedish Democrats claim.
There has also been an increase in organized crime in recent years. In a country with harsh drug laws, gangs fight over who gets to sell cannabis in specific territories. Large-scale immigration has contributed since new entrants want a piece of the pie.
And yet the data fail to record the incredible surge in violence that Trump’s defenders talk about. The homicide rate is almost exactly what it was a decade ago, despite the gang wars. The latest Swedish Crime Survey, from the Swedish Council for Crime Prevention, shows that the population exposed to assault has declined by 0.7 percentage point in the last 10 years, and offenses against the person in general “is approximately the same level as in 2005″—almost a decade before the surge of refugees.
Norborg also punches holes in the theory that rapes are up, saying it’s a disparity in how the Swedish law is written.
Sweden differs from other countries in two more ways. The definition of rape has been extended to include sexual abuse not considered rape in other countries. In the year that change was made the number of rape offenses increased by 66 percent!…
And unlike in other countries, if a husband rapes his wife every day during the last year, this is filed as 365 separate cases in Sweden, not as one case, as in most countries (or zero, as in Saudi Arabia) to make the crime more visible in statistics and in the debate.
So basically, Sweden doesn’t have many more registered sex offenses because we are more criminal, or have more Muslim immigrants. We have them because we are more feminist.
Swedish law backs up Norborg’s opinion. Here’s the unofficial translation of Chapter 6, Section 1 of Sweden’s Penal Code (emphasis mine).
A person who by assault or other violence or by threat of a criminal act forces another person to have sexual intercourse or to undertake or endure another sexual act that, in view of the seriousness of the violation, is comparable to sexual intercourse, shall be sentenced for rape to imprisonment for at least two and at most six years.
This also applies if a person engages with another person in sexual intercourse or in a sexual act which under the first paragraph is comparable to sexual intercourse by improperly exploiting that the person, due to unconsciousness, sleep, serious fear, intoxication or other drug influence, illness, physical injury or mental disturbance, or otherwise in view of the circumstances, is in a particularly vulnerable situation.
It certainly appears Sweden has rape laws which some people would love to import into the U.S.
But Norborg also gives the same treatise I suggested yesterday, that it’s the economy which is one reason behind immigrant crime (emphasis mine).
Yes, immigrants to Sweden do commit more crimes than people born in Sweden, in contrast to countries like the United States, where immigrants commit less crime than the native-born. That’s partly because refugees to Sweden are much poorer and less educated, and because they have a much harder time finding a job. The Swedish economy has been liberalized over the last two decades, but we’ve made exceptions for the labor market, which still makes it difficult to work and easy to claim welfare.
Another Swede, Erik Lidstrom, wrote a similar piece at his blog (emphasis original).
As a result of the earlier, less taxed and less regulated economy, after the war, Swedish industry was screaming for labour. Anyone could come to Sweden, provided they either had a job, or someone who vouched for them financially. No government support was provided. A large number of Italians and Yugoslavs arrived, among others.
But as the tax pressure and the increasing regulations began to strangle the economy, and as the labour unions acted as labour unions tend to do, the Social Democratic government stopped the free immigration of labour at the end of the 1960s…
Immigration continued to gradually increase; over the past 25-30 years, Sweden has received maybe 1,5 million non-Western immigrants, out of which about 1 million now live on welfare. It takes on average 9 years before half of the new arrivals work at least one hour per week. Those who arrive have different cultures, and many have no or very little education (maybe 2 years of schooling for Afghans, 4-5 years for Syrians or Iraqis, to a substantial degree illiterate for the Somalis).
It appears the issue isn’t an immigration issue, but a government trying to protect special interests (unions), while also providing a bit of a safety net to the unemployed. This is why I wrote on Wednesday the biggest issue appeared to be the economy. If foreigners are kept out of the labor market, their only options are to either A) go on welfare or B) get involved in criminal activities or C) a combination. The immigrant hawks would say the solution is tossing everyone out, but the better solution is liberalizing the economy to make it easier for employers to hire nonunion workers (currently 70% of Swedish workers are in a union), and gradually reducing the safety net. All of these goals can be accomplished at the same time, without the need to stop letting people into the country.
Here’s a better question: why did the Swedish Democrats decide to write an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal? Are they hoping to get foreign donations from Americans to boost their chances in 2018, or hoping to gain traction with Trump? I get the feeling it might be both.
Update: Erik Lidstrom has replied in the comments section he doesn’t agree with Johan Norberg on Sweden and immigration. My apologies for misinterpreting his comment.
Here is his suggestion, “What must happen is that financial support is cut, ideally to zero. In all fairness, since Sweden has fooled people to move here, a generous repatriation grant should be paid. Maybe half a million, maybe a million would leave. That might cost 3-7 percent of our GDP. But the yearly cost is today twice of that.”